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Cheaper Sears Appliances — Without a Trip to Sears

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If you want a designer fashion in a particular color or style, increasingly you can only go to one retailer to get it (or eBay, if the item in question happens to be of the much-hyped Missoni from Target line). But if you want a Sears-brand Kenmore appliance, a trip to Sears may not be your only option.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Sears is looking into selling its popular Kenmore and Kenmore Elite brand of appliances through other retailers. (There’s precedent for Sears to do so: the company recently made its in-house line of Craftsman tools available through Costco.) Sears confirmed that it’s considering such an expansion, but said it could be years away.

Increased competition is almost always a good thing for consumers — there’s a better chance of finding a desired item in stock, and more incentive for retailers to offer sales and discounts to get you to buy through them instead of a competitor.

That’s likely to be the case here, too, and Kenmore and Kenmore Elite appliances are already a popular buy. Customers shopping for appliances at Sears often say later that they did so because preferred brands were available at prices they liked, and Kenmore is a big factor in that, says Jim Howland, a senior director at J.D. Power & Associates. In its 2011 rankings for ovens, clothes washers, clothes dryers refrigerators, and dishwashers, Kenmore received three out of five, what the survey considers “about average,” but among the better ratings for low- and mid-priced appliances. Higher rankings tend toward premium brands like Viking, Sub-Zero, Samsung – and also Kenmore Elite.

Shoppers could also benefit from a service perspective, but in that category, there’s still good reason to consider Sears for a Kenmore buy, Howland says. In the 2011 rankings, Sears performed better than competitors on sales, delivery and installation. Consumers said delivery times were convenient, and also noted that workers were tidy in cleaning up the packaging after installation. Read recent customer reviews when considering where to buy.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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